Canadian Ricker wins cross gold

Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:48pm EST
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By Deborah Charles

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Maelle Ricker thrilled a rowdy hometown crowd and easily won the women's Olympic snowboard cross title on Tuesday, bagging the first gold for a Canadian woman on home soil.

Ricker, who saw her main rival Lindsey Jacobellis of the U.S. spin out as they jockeyed for the lead in the semi-final, took the lead in the final race early and was unchallenged as she flew over the last jump and sailed across the finish line to secure Canada's second gold of the Games.

She then spun on her snowboard to face the crowd and pumped her arms in victory to the delight of the fans who had waited through a two-hour delay in competition because of heavy rain and fog.

The north Vancouver native, who fell in her first qualifying run, got herself under control the rest of the day, winning her quarter-final and the semi-final.

"I'm so overwhelmed, I can't even believe it," Ricker said. "The way my day started ... and the way it all went through.

"I just held on and tried to do my best,"

France's Deborah Anthonioz won silver and Olivia Nobs of Switzerland took the bronze.

Pre-race favorite Jacobellis, who missed winning the snowboard cross debut gold in 2006 when she fell making a showboat move near the finish line, slid out of control in the semi-final and off the course as she dueled for the lead with Ricker.

Ricker was the only Canadian who made it through the qualifying round after team mate and defending bronze medalist Dominique Maltais crashed in both her runs and failed to make it to the quarter-finals.

(additional reporting by Julian Linden; editing by Miles Evans)

<p>Canada's Maelle Ricker competes during the women's snowboard cross semifinals at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, February 16, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Blake</p>